Love Is…

When I write about my husband, I ask him to read it before I hit publish. This time I didn’t.

I’m surprising him with a public love letter.

Dear Ricky, (I call him Ricky, but most people call him Rick)

Sunday night, after we picked out our Christmas tree and brought it home, I headed to my loft office to write while you wrested that prickly, sap-filled Frazier fir into place.

With my fingers on my laptop, I sensed a tapping on my heart and glanced through the banisters to watch you work. You were doing the same thing you’ve done for 39 years.

It sounds like a small thing, but this sight moved me.

So much love came over me, I wanted to get closer.

I tiptoed downstairs and sat in the red chair behind you.

I didn’t say anything. I sat there, watching and thinking. Praying a little bit.

I’d never thought much about Christmas tree lights until that flickering moment.

I remembered our first Christmas, 1978.

We came home with a tree that wouldn’t fit in out den–remember?

Then we drove back to the tree lot and exchanged it for a smaller one. I was afraid we’d lost our money, but you knew they’d do the right thing.

What about all those years when Jamie, Katie, and Thomas helped us decorate?

It never occurred to me that Christmases would change, and one day it would just be you and me.

Every year, you untangle the lights from last Christmas because I’m always in such a hurry to take down the decorations.

And every year you fix my mess.

I don’t know why this touched me so deeply…

Maybe because my word for 2017 is Love.

I didn’t know this as young wife and mother.

And I didn’t put the definition together until three days ago.

This is what Love means:

Love means doing whatever it takes to get the job done. 

Love is content to go unnoticed.

Love is kind–even when the Christmas lights are knotted up. (click to tweet)

Thank you, Ricky.

Happy 39th on December 9th.

I love you.


To my readers–

What does love mean to you?

Has your definition of love changed over the years? Share it with us!




  1. Carm Russell says:

    Ooh such love!. Reminds of the time I took a picture of him sorting laundry with his reacher from his wheelchair. Not easy and with a reacher only one or two pieces of clothes at a time can be moved into the respective pile. He had already been diagnosed with the cancer that would eventually take his life home to God. But he still wanted to be n active part of the marriage, home, life of love we had created. Thank you for sharing ❣️


    • Carm,

      Oh, Carm…

      Such love. Wow–what a memory. I’m seeing it in my mind.

      Thank you so much for sharing this chunk of your heart.


  2. Carm Russell says:

    Of David my husband

  3. sandy Coffey says:

    What a fitting love story for this time of year. I think Love is in the actions and not in the words so much. So many ways to show love in everyday life and it begins with all of us one to the other. Love when your stories are posted. A positive way to start the day.

    • I Love how you worked a piece of Scripture into your comment, Sandy.

      “Love, one to another.”

      Thank you, my friend.


  4. Kim says:

    Oh Julie, I’m crying. This is so moving. Sweet. Wonderful. I think I’ve always believed love is a feeling and you put it into action. Now I know it’s that plus putting it into action and receiving the feeling.

    • Nothing sweeter than a writer discovering she’s touched a reader’s heart.

      Thank you, Kim.

      I love you.

  5. Anna Haney says:

    Julie, I am sitting here awash in tears. What a wonderful story. Ricky reminds me so much of my daddy. Always doing what needs to be done to get the job finished. Willing to go an extra mile. Gentle. Kind. Loving. Never making me feel like a goober when he’s cleaning up a mess I’ve made.
    This weekend, I got to see my husband this way as he cared for his mom who is on Hospice. He’s been coordinating her care from 2 hours away, answering texts from the caregivers, making sure they are paid on time. On Friday, he went to the bank for his mom, went to Sams to get supplies, then to the grocery store, then to the cable company to return a cable box she is no longer using in an effort to lower her monthly expenses. He brought her the most wonderful banana pudding from a cafe here in Knoxville. He checked her oxygen levels. He has the heart of a servant. Daddy did those same things with my mom.
    We are blessed.
    Happy anniversary!
    Love you

    • Anna,

      I’m giving you a assignment….just kidding. But I think you should show your comment to Don.


      I love you, my faraway friend. Don’s love for his mother is how Christ loves the Church.

  6. Marcia Bargo says:

    Yes, tears in my eyes. I always feel you are sitting across from me sharing, Julie–very personal and engaging. Love is not at all flashy. It is in the small everyday things, a kind, gentle word, a soft touch–someone who has your back.

    • Marcia,

      I felt such a gentle, sweet nudge from God to get the blog posted. I stared it a few days ago–then woke up Wednesday morning know I HAD to get it up. I didn’t take time to obsess over it–just sort of let it go.

      And to discover that this fraction of a moment touched you….well, it’s why I write.

      You’re absolutely right. Love is not at all flashy! You said it beautifully. It means, “Someone has your back.”

      We need to compile this Wisdom for teenage girls.


  7. Brenda Greene says:

    Yes sweet tears…and here’s what love looked like to me many years ago. It was also Christmas, hubby worked hard at his job (to support us and our two girls) and was often sweaty and dirty when he left. This particular Christmas after he got off work, he went into a Christian book store and bought me the first four video tapes (before DVDs) of the Gaither Homecoming series. I was totally surprised and overwhelmed for many reasons. He’s never been a shopper, rarely would he go out in public after work (always careful about how he looked), and didn’t even like the Gaither music, but knew I did. Even though that was many Christmases ago that memory is still strong in my heart. I always considered it a true act of love from my ofttime quiet and unemotional fellow. Still got those tapes, that fellow, and this memory. Thanks for letting me remember…Merry Christmas to you and yours! Much love! Brenda

    • Ohhhhh, sweet Brenda,

      Now I have tears.

      What a memory….. Such quiet love. Thank you for letting us peek into your heart–and for reminding us of what matters most.

      The stuff love is made of.

      All my love,

  8. Julie Gilleand says:

    Hi Julie,

    How sweet, what you noticed and how it touched your heart. And how sweet to send Rick this love letter. I have had some moments like that too, one in particular comes to mind and it was recent. Rod and I were out on a drive one Saturday afternoon, just in the mood for some kind of adventure but we didn’t know just what yet. Just played it by ear as we drove along. We ended up going to to a friend’s yardsale, then to a cafe we’d not been to before, for lunch. Then we thought about taking a riverboat ride and found out the ones we knew about had stopped running for the season. We went to a flew market after that and it was just a fun day. But something happened to me while we were out driving, between stops. Sort of like your moment, as you watched Rick from the loft. Hard to describe. I just suddenly was so filled with love for Rod as I looked over at him in the driver’s seat. So much turmoil we have been through together, but our little road trips and adventures have been the sweetness and grace in the midst of such hardships and sorrows and I knew it was God’s gift to us. You know how you sometimes only appreciate things in retrospect? This was like God gave me the ability to appreciate this right in the moment, as it was happened, and it so touched my heart in an unexpected and lovely way. I choked up and teared up a bit, but kept that between myself and God. This is what came to mind as I read your blog/letter to Rick. Thanks for sharing this and reminding me of one of my sweet moments again ♥


    • Leafy,

      YOU NAILED IT! Yes!! That’s exactly what I felt.

      Me too! Isn’t it fun to be able to say, “Me too” and know that you’ve connected!!

      I love seeing the pics of you and Rod–your adventures together–your rugged love for each other.

      Thank you for sharing, my friend.

      I love you~~~~~~

  9. Tina Bearden says:

    You are so right about the changes! Never thought we would lose Ashley & it would exist David & I.
    Mitchell is married & we are not a priority because the other family is larger with nieces & nephews to offer. So more time is spent there. Girls gravitate to their families. The memories are wonderful though❤️

    • Hey Tina,

      You say “lose Ashley.” I don’t know what happened…… Ohhh, Tina, did Ashley go to heaven?

      I love you. Hugging you from here.

  10. Vicky says:

    I truly admire how you put together your own definition of love. What a loving tribute to your husband and the times you’ve shared together over all these years. You’ve had me pause and wonder how I would define love at our house? My own Rick, on occasion will let a “Ricky,” slide by and smiles his way through, despite his preference for use of the name “Rick.” I think that’s love right there. Especially the Rick who carries my purse, and washes my clothes, and helps me from the tub when I’m frail from so much cancer treatment- I wouldn’t have thought any of these things would be what our lives look like. But he shows up, and does the work, without mention of how hard it is, and I’m comforted by these acts. Plus this is how love is demonstrated, daily.

    I’m so thankful for the ways you help me pause and reflect. I’ll carry this with me, with fresh eyes to see, thanks to you! Love you sweet one.

    • More tears, Vicky.

      Your words and your heart–ALWAYS move me. And so does your Ricky. This is what it means to be a man. Hope you show him your beautiful comment.

      I love you. Thank you.

  11. Elaine Sharrard says:

    Loa1ve is just being together at times and not having to say anything.cwe have been married for 56 years. We finish each other’s sentences, know what we want before we order out. We are there for each other through all our surgeries and sickness. We are there when things remind us of son we lost to hiv. We help the other two children and their families through their trials and tribulations. We love gardening,sitting on the patio or out front in our lawn chairs. You and I share the Christmas things too. How do those lights get so tangled up, must be fairies in the attic or gremlins. I remember our first tree sat on a table top,we couldn’t afford a bigger one. We even made some homemade ornaments and bought some that were on sale. Love is, just is you and I are lucky to have such love.

    • Ohhhhh, Elaine.

      Do you realize the Wisdom in your words? The years of love? And everything that went into all your Wisdom?

      Your thoughts are so precious, my friend. 56 years. You’ve been though life together–THIS IS WHAT MARRIAGE MEANS. It’s the Truth. It’s what Love means.

      I can see you two in my mind. And I love the image.

      Thank you for sharing the richness of your world with us.

      May the Lord bless you and keep you–both of you.


  12. What is love? Some say, “Love is never having to say you’re sorry.” But I disagree. Love is saying everything that needs to be said, including “I’m sorry. Please forgive me.” I’ve had a lot to ask forgiveness for this past year, and I’m working on saying it “with love” to those I love.

    Your Rick may clean up your tangled mess of lights, but you are the light of his life, I can tell. You know how? By how he does such loving things for you. Thanks for capturing that man of yours doing what love truly is. And Happy Anniversary on 12-9!

    • B.J. I agree completely!! Love means we say we’re sorry….and we forgive….for a lifetime.

      Your words. Wow, how they move me. I’m the light of his life. Never thought of it that way.

      I love you always and forever. You know me so well, and still, you love me.

  13. Marci' a says:

    Oh, Julie! As I read this, how it touched me, and I understood your feelings. You worded it so well, like a song we hear, and it says what we feel. Happy Anniversary! 39 yrs, no one tells us how quickly the years pass do they? I love the pics you posted. And the one of you from that 1st Christmas. You look the same. As we are fastly coming up on our 50 yr Anniversary, this was such good timing for me. I had already thought of writing something to honor the Anniversary, and your writing has inpired me and given me the push to do that. I think of the song that came out (I think) about the time we married, “It All Comes With the Wedding Cake” And as we know, there is a lot that comes with the wedding cake and how life changes through the years. ( I wish I could find that song again and the words.) And also our love. I think our husbands have the same love language. All the many things they do, and so patiently. When mine fixed the dryer, and the car, and so many other things. The care he takes with each animal, be it chickens, cats, or dogs. His tender heart.. see how you have inspired me? Thank you dearest Julie.

    • Yes, yes, yes, Marci’a WRITE THAT LETTER.

      To be perfectly honest, I hesitated before I pressed “publish” with this one. It was so personal–and I thought, who really cares about my marriage. But I just kept sensing God’s Spirit pressing me forward.

      50 years. You’ve told me this before and it always surprises me. That’s a long time, and I know how almost 40 feels–how God molds and shapes our Love–how He’s the One who keeps us strong.

      Yep. Our men are a lot alike. Maybe they’d like to have a porch party!!!!!

      I love you. Thank you for being you.

      • Marci' a says:

        Yes! I think maybe our husbands might like to have a porch party and could come up with a lot to talk about.
        Love you, and Thank you for being you!

  14. Cathy Mayfield says:

    First, my picture by our first tree could be a twin for yours! Red hair and style and all!

    Love? How does one define the undefinable? Only God…”Love is…” and all that.

    Love is a bag of shelled peanuts. Love is a second Christmas tree. Love is a $5 bill. Love is a stanza of poetry written on a scrap of paper. Love is a delivery man with two clothes props. Love is a wall of prayers. Love is a rental trailer. Love is…

    Love. Mother. Father. Daughter. Grandmother. Grandfather. Love.

    “And the greatest of these is…” JESUS!

    • Cathy….I think you’re on to something here.

      A Love Is poem. Have you written anything like this before? It’s really, really good. Keep going!!!

      It’s full of heart and soul! I’m serious!!

      Thank you for sharing it with us.

      • Cathy Mayfield says:

        Thank you, Julie. I didn’t intend it as a poem…it just came out that way. It must be the psalms I’ve been writing the past few weeks. The Holy Spirit is speaking to me through them, and sometimes, when I finish one, I get those “holy goosebumps.” It’s as if I didn’t write the final lines, but Someone Else did. Like the one I wrote today:

        A Psalm of a Martha
        from The Psalms of a Martha-and-Mary

        I’m ready, Lord! Let’s get started!
        Not yet, My daughter.

        But why? I’ve studied; I’ve learned; I’ve prepared. It’s time!
        Not enough, not yet.

        But, Lord, You know how much I’ve done to get ready. I thought I heard You say the time is right, the time is NOW.
        The time is right, the time is just not NOW as you think of it. Not yet, Martha.

        Oh, Jesus, what more must I do? I’ve listened to many people, read many books and articles, considered many options. And … most important, I’ve listened to You. Remember my commissioning verse? I have received my “pen” and am ready to write “a word in season to him who is weary.”
        Yes, I know. You’ve listened well, learned well. I’ve given you the pen. But, Martha…

        So, You must see I’m ready!
        Not Yet, Martha. You are too eager to reach your fellow man.

        Of course I am! There are so many weary people in this world. It’s the Martha-and-Mary in me; I want to touch them, heal them, help them.
        That is My job, child. First, before You can help Me, You need Me more. You, Martha-and-
        Mary, are one of those weary people. You know I am right.

        Oh, Lord, yes, You are. I am weary. I need more time, more of You … Your peace in my troubled heart, Your mercy to my aching body, Your love for my searching soul.
        Ah, now you see. There is a reason to wait. NOW will come, I promise. It will come. But, not yet.

        Not yet. I hear You, Lord. Not yet. Teach me, My Lord.
        Oh, I am, My precious daughter. I am.

        “LORD, I wait for you; you will answer, Lord my God” (Psalm 38:15).

        c. 2017 Cathy Mayfield

        • So incredibly powerful, Cathy. Thank you. What a difficult lesson to learn. “Not yet. Wait. Trust Me.”

  15. Patricia Martin says:

    Julie, Happy Almost Anniversary to you and Rick! To me love is my parents godly example of sacrifice and selflessness. Love is also you writing your blog and sharing God’s love with us!(((((:

    • Patricia, I always start smiling when I see your name pop up! You have the most precious heart!!!

      Thank you! You have no idea how much you encourage me as a writer.

      Wish I could meet your parents. I know they’re amazing.

      Great big hug from foggy, damp GA this morning!

  16. Aw. So beautiful and heartwarming. Every time I read what you write about your husband, I say you are one blessed gal to have him. And I whisper a prayer in my heart that someday I’ll find someone with a heart like his.

    Thanks for sharing this with us, Julie. Have a blessed Christmas (in advance!).

    • Lux,

      We married so young. 18 and 19. We had no clue what we were doing. It’s the Lord’s doing. I’ll be praying for God to give you your heart’s desire.

      So much love,

      P.S. I’m enjoying getting to know you on IG! xoxoxoxo

      • Thank you, Julie. Oh, yes. I seldom add people outside my circle in my socials. But I know that I can trust you.

        Merry Christmas to you and your fam!

  17. Patricia Martin says:

    Hi Julie,
    Loved the sweet pics of Rilynn and you! I showed my sister your Instagram pics as she is looking to make some cookies for Christmas. Please pray for me and my family as I lost my dear friend Shirley almost two weeks ago and now my family is going through some personal problems?

    • I’m so sorry, Patricia. I’m saying a prayer right now in my heart…praying God brings you a sense of comfort and some peace.

      It’s not to late to try those Christmas cookies! Let me know how they turn out.

  18. Patricia Martin says:

    Thanks, Julie! ((: Hope your Christmas was restful and joyful! Rilynn is darling and love the pics of you both on IG! ((:

    • Julie says:

      She is just precious! Thank you, Patricia. We gave her a little pretend animal hospital for Christmas, so she’s now a vet!


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